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The Bathroom Frightens Me

~Demon Maxwell~

The Clever Girl
I have a terrible phobia of bathrooms.

I know the main characteristic of a phobia is that it’s irrational, but even from a logical state of mind, I couldn’t tell you why I fear them. They just... creep me out. Make me feel enclosed and dirty, even though it’s the place in which most people get clean. I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it’s on the weird scale of things (because after all, we’ve heard of tight spaces and heights and the dark, but when has the bathroom been mentioned in normalcy?) and I know I’m kind of a freak for having such a fear... but it’s there, and it’s as strong as anybody else’s.

I’m always doing things to avoid going in there: holding off from going to the bathroom as long as physically possible, showering as infrequently as possible without being dirty- and of course, I wash and jump out within about ten minutes. Additionally, I have to change everything. The towels. The bath mat. And I scrub the tub mercilessly, even though I only ever go for showers.

Also, when I go in there, I always wear shoes. The feel of the cold tile makes my skin crawl.

As you can imagine, this becomes a bit of a nuisance for my family. I am constantly refusing to clean in there, always saying I will do any other chore ever in turn for bathroom duty. My mother heeds it, but I know she questions my state of mind for having such a fear. I know she’s overwhelmed every time I ask her to clean the bathroom when I need to go for a shower. I realise it’s drastic, but it’s the only way I get it done. I dread to think what it will be like when I live alone.

Remember how I said I avoid the bathroom whenever possible? Yeah, it’s true - exceptionally so. So much so that I even brush my teeth in the kitchen (my bathroom is downstairs, rather than upstairs). The kitchen just feels much safer to me, and though I still dislike the feeling of the cold floor against my feet, and still wear shoes most of the time in there even though I’m not obliged to like with the bathroom, it doesn't make me squirm to think about it.

My little story begins on a night when I was doing what I would do any other night: brushing my teeth. Hell, it’s why I mentioned it beforehand. I'm guilty of thinking this incident over so many times, making myself sick with worry and fear. Thinking. Always thinking. Turning over thoughts in my head until my brain and I are sick of one another.

It’s always the same.

“You know, one day, you’re going to have to stop using the kitchen and get accustomed to the bathroom again. You’ll have to do it alone one day you know, Jess.”

Ah, my mother, always the voice of encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, she was almost always supportive, she helped me through depression, tried to understand my anxiety issues, and did anything and everything she could to really understand my cryptic train of thought... but this bathroom phobia of mine was just one game she never wanted to play.

“I know,” I replied in broken syllables, toothpaste obstructing the sounds. She accepted it, shrugged her shoulders with a look of disdain on her face. I emptied my mouth, watched it wash down the drain and put my toothbrush and toothpaste back in the little tub in which I kept them after rinsing them. They always sat on the kitchen windowsill, and everybody knew not to tamper with them. I then turned back to my mother, a little smile tugging at the corner of my mouth. “But that day is not today.”

She sighed, shaking her head and leaving the room with a little “tsk” of disapproval. I knew she was going to be heading up to bed. My mother works early in the morning, gets up at five o’clock to get there in time for her shifts beginning at six; because of this, I can often surpass the time she stays awake, and sometimes stay downstairs with her for a few hours before she heads off to sleep. Hell, I often do - just because I can. Because sleep escapes me. Because insomnia is at my heels.

I gave the kitchen a once-over, making note of the open window - the sink is right under it, and so it’s not hard to remember to check on it. The kitchen window, however, doesn’t open any wider than a few centimetres, thirty at absolute most, so I figured it would be fine to leave it be - after all, no robber, no matter how good they were, was going to be able to squeeze their way through such a tiny space. A finger or hand, maybe, but never a body.

With that enough to encourage me to move on, just as it was every night (the weather had been surprisingly warm for the past few days, despite Britain’s usual affiliation with rain), I switched the light off and headed up to bed. Nothing unusual. I played my game for a while; browsed the internet; read my book; and eventually succumbed to sleep at around four in the morning, sleep catching up with me and my hurtling thoughts.

The next morning, I awoke to my siblings arguing. As usual. God, I hate it so much - they always fight over my mother’s laptop, who can use it, when they can use it, and often descend into shouting before the conversation is done. Even so, it doesn’t deter my uncanny ability to stay under the warmth of my sheets.

Usually.

I dragged myself out of bed, trailing down the stairs, deciding I would give them what for when I eventually reached them. But when I arrived downstairs, they were sitting beside one another, staring at the computer screen. As if that would work.

“I heard you screaming,” I muttered, and the pair of them fell flat, hanging their heads in unauthentic shame. I knew they didn’t care about waking anybody up - they never had and probably never would. It didn’t bother me until it was me they were waking, and the fact that sleep often evaded me made it even more insensitive of them.

I began to get ready for the day. There was no point in trailing back to bed, it wasn’t as if I was going to fall back to sleep with the sun glaring through my shut curtains, the light still bright enough to interrupt the darkened reverie behind my eyelids. I went back upstairs to quickly get dressed (refusing to do it in the bathroom), before going downstairs once more and to the kitchen to continue. I stopped walking when I realised what I saw.

Ordinary surroundings - but something was off. As if something had been misplaced. You know the feeling when you’re walking down a dark street, and though you distinctly know that nobody’s following you, you keep an eye out for inconsistencies anyway? That’s the kind of mindset I was in and it was disturbing to say the least. Because why?

I decided to ignore it, moving to the sink to begin brushing my teeth - and that’s when I noticed it: my little tub for my toothbrush and toothpaste had been moved. It was a slight movement, something that, if I hadn’t been looking for it, I wouldn’t have noticed. But that odd feeling had washed over me and now it was clear as day.

Immediately, my temper flared and I demanded to know why either one of my siblings had moved it - my mother was at work, it couldn’t have been anybody else. Truth be told, it wasn’t the movement that really angered me; it was the feeling that somebody else felt the need to do make a statement about it by moving my things. I knew brushing my teeth in the kitchen wasn’t exactly ideal, but I was never sloppy with it.

They fiercely claimed that neither of them had moved it - and of course, I didn’t believe them. So what did I do? I confiscated the laptop from both of them, and then when my mum got home from work at her usual time of two o’clock, explained to her in a frenzy why they wouldn’t be allowed back on it. Any other time, she would have argued, claimed it was unreasonable, but I was in such a state about it that I suppose she knew better than to do so.

I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day, the prospect of being lied to hanging over my head as the day drifted into evening hours. I know it seems an extreme thing to be angry about, but I’m very particular about these kinds of things. Because I know my phobia makes things difficult for people. Because I try to be as discreet as possible, and it really plays on my anxieties when I think people have caught on to just how weird it is.

Despite my foul mood though, I was able to get to sleep fairly easily. As if my brain just wanted the day to be done with to make room for a new start.

I was awake before my siblings the next morning, having slept early. The quiet was something that I had always taken for granted; in fact, I had always detested it. It made my thoughts seem much louder, much more domineering than they really were; it was easier to forget about them when surrounded by noise. But this type of peace on a morning was something that I’d almost forgotten. Hell, it was comforting.

I got dressed in a rush to enjoy the tranquillity, making my way to the kitchen as usual and--

“It’s moved... again...” I whispered, hardly able to believe it. It seemed such a small thing and yet my heart began to thump in my chest. Was someone... disturbing it? No, no-- my head rationalised that it was the wind outside; it had been warm by day but by night it was as windy as it came, gale forces blowing a storm out there. That would explain why it had been tossed into the sink, toothbrush splayed against the drain. I was just lucky the mouth piece had remained on the steel - there was something about a drain that just rubbed me the wrong way, perhaps because it reminded me of the shower in that dreaded room.

Nevertheless, my rationalisations weren’t helping me. I didn’t know why, they explained my situation perfectly. It made perfect sense to me. So why wasn’t it...?

I spent the day in silence. When my siblings tried to coax a sound out of me, I moved rooms. When my mum tried to talk to me, I moved rooms. When my mum’s work colleague dropped by to see my mum, I moved rooms. And I kept moving rooms until the day was over and there was nowhere else to move but to bed.

I lay there staring at the ceiling, trying hard, the hardest I think I’ve ever tried, to get my mind to stop working. Making up theories for why my things had moved - and so drastically compared to the day before. My mind screamed at me that it couldn’t have been the wind; the night before this one, when my brush had moved only slightly, had been incredibly windy too and yet I had come down this morning to see it strewn across the counter-top, toothbrush in the sink and the toothpaste thrown onto the floor beside the cabinets. It just didn’t make any sense. Was I thinking too much...?

How to deal with the situation dawned on me like the ****ing sun.

I got up, opened my door as silently as I could (taking care not to wake my sleeping sister, whom I shared a room with) and went down the stairs, dressing gown trailing behind me like a river down its bank. It was disconcerting, the darkness of the stairs, followed by the feeling of being engulfed by shadows before my hand came into contact with the light switch to the living room. Once it flickered on, I held my breath.

Everything was ordinary.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t calmness. I told myself it was my mind’s fault; that running circles around things that weren’t possible was what had landed me in such a paranoid state. I felt better when I chastised myself for being childish, and made my way steadily to the kitchen.

Sure enough, the tub with my usual essentials was there, on the windowsill, the window open its usual centimetres. And all was perfectly still, save for the raging wind outside. The light from the living room was enough to see well enough in the kitchen, so I left the light alone, standing there as still as I could bring myself to, staring the tub down as if I expected it to grow legs and move all on its own. I’m not certain how long I stood there, but the silence eventually pressed too hard on my ears and I felt the urge to move away. It wasn’t creepy as it was... anti-climatic. I sighed heavily, legs shifting to carry me back to bed. I’d had enough - it was late as it was, and I’d wasted plenty of time being childish. I realised then that it was all a waste of time, that there was no point to standing there in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the wind and expecting it to turn into something else that was infinitely more sinister. It was childish, because those things didn’t exist.

So, what was that scratching sound...?

Cautiously, I turned my head back to the window--

--and immediately recoiled in horror.

A single bony finger had made its way up the frame of the glass. It hadn’t even entered, it was just... moving, slowly. As if engraving patterns into frost on the transparent pane. I held my breath, deciding with a resolve of stone that it was just some kid messing around. But it didn’t make sense... it wasn’t as if they knew I’d be here... no, stop it...! I watched as the finger was followed by several more, six more to be exact. Seven... seven fingers. I almost passed out there and then. They scraped lightly at the glass, moving with incredibly light scratching patterns, and I was under the impression that it wasn’t strong, that it couldn’t possibly break through or even manoeuvre its way in with movements so flimsy.

God, I was wrong.

For a moment, the clicking sound didn’t register in my mind as cracking glass, but as I stared ahead in horrified, morbid wonder, I watched as it began to splinter, much like a wooden door when it has too much pressure applied to it. Did it know I was there? And if it did, was this all for show? No, it couldn’t have seen me... the kitchen wasn’t big by any means, but I was still on the other side of the room; it couldn’t possibly have seen me...!

As quickly as the sounds had entered my ears, they left. The room fell into silence. The only sound that penetrated the foreboding quietness were the breaths that had caught in my throat. I could hardly believe what was happening... what was going on... it all seemed so surreal; as if dreaming was a very plausible explanation, even though I knew such a thing wasn’t possible.

“Jesus...” I breathed quietly, hand shifting involuntarily to place itself over my heart, the drumming sensation against my fingers enough to make me feel cold. It was fast... so fast...

I was dumb to think that it was all over. When I had worked up the courage to turn on my heel, the sound of fingers touching against the rubbery plastic of the window frame filled the silence. I forced my head to turn to look over my shoulder - and what I saw in the window was horrifying.

It’s figure wasn’t really something I can describe. It was just... a haze of blackness, and whether that was to do with its form or the darkness outside, I still don’t know. Eyes, red as blood, stared straight ahead. They didn’t appear to be focused on me. In fact, I don’t think it noticed me at all. And, if I could only see it now, did that mean it had been hiding before?! It didn’t matter. What once were uselessly lazy movements were now clean and precise, and in one sharp motion, its head - or what I assumed was its head - had pressed against the window, the sound of splintering glass filling my ears once more. It was only then that it looked at me. I knew - there was no focus in those eyes, but I knew it saw me. I couldn’t even begin to understand the emotions that were coursing through me.

With its eyes still firmly trained on me, as if it could see right through me, its hand, then its arm, slunk through the open window, and pushed the tub an inch forwards. As if it knew how uncomfortable it made me. As if it knew I was terrified. As if it knew I was one step away from an anxiety attack.

When I made no move to stop it, I could almost feel its smirk. It was taunting me. If it had been a person, I would’ve hauled myself out of the front door and dealt with it whatever way possible... but this thing... this thing with seven fingers and red eyes, was no person.

With suddenness, it rammed its jagged claws into the windowsill and though the darkness obstructed my view, I knew it had left marks. The sound made me cringe, then shrink backwards; if I truly believed putting distance between us would have helped solved my terror, I would have fled.

I didn’t get chance to.

With speed and a ferocity I wouldn’t have considered possible, it turned its body the opposite direction, arm cracking sharply as it remained in the gap of the window, and then smashed what I assumed was the palm of its grizzly hand against the tub, sending it carting powerfully in my direction.

I didn’t even have time to scream.

-----

I awoke on the couch in the living room, an icepack on my forehead and three worried faces around me. My mother and my two siblings. My brother peered at me, perplexed by the assortment of colour on my face while my sister looked confused; as if she thought I was stupid.

“Wh-What...?”

“Don’t do that, honey,” my mother instructed, a kind smile on her face as she inched her way onto the edge of the sofa, perching beside me. Her hand rested atop the freezing cold icepack and I let out a small sigh of relief as the ice chilled my forehead into pleasant numbness. I wasn’t even going to ask about how she’d found me... as in, I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of being found on the floor. “Rest. You have to rest.”

I could only nod as she reluctantly pulled back, coaxing my siblings away from me, instructing them to go elsewhere. I supposed it was for the best - all I could do was nod off back to sleep, sudden memories of what had happened the previous night plaguing my dreams and turning them into nightmares.

To this day, I don’t know what that thing was. I haven’t seen it again. I even made a point to go and wait downstairs in the very same spot again, if only to alleviate my sense of curiosity. I was scared stiff, kept my toothbrush container in my hands, knuckles chalk-white in the dark of night as I waited for the beast to come. I don’t recall being that scared, ever.

And yes, to this day, I am still afraid of the bathroom; I still wear shoes to mask the coldness against my feet and I still have to change absolutely everything in there when I go for a shower just to feel safe and sane... I still brush my teeth in the kitchen, too... but I always turn my back on the window. Because sometimes, when I stare, I can feel it staring back at me. Because sometimes, when my mother has started walking up the stairs, leaving me to finish up, I’ll see a flicker of red, bright one minute, and gone the next.

I always run now; doing what I never had a chance to do before.

It’s funny though: whenever I go to sleep, I’ll swear I hear the faint splintering of glass and as I look to my bedroom window, I always see nothing. It haunts me does that sound, echoes in my ears until exhaustion prevails and drags me unwillingly into a dark slumber. When I dream, regardless of what it’s about, I always awaken with my vision cracking into fragmented pieces, just as the kitchen window was about to before I caught onto what the thing in the window was doing. Breaking in. Or trying to.

It’s closed now. The window, I mean. My mother noticed the marks on the glass and got pretty spooked. Still, she’s under the painfully naive, but still entirely justified from her perspective, illusion that somebody had been trying to rob us. She called someone to repair it - I assume they’ll be around in a couple of days for the job.

Now if only they could do that with my memories: replace them like a pane of glass, wipe the slate clean. I know they can’t but the thought intrigues me so...

...even so, I know I’d never forget.

How could I?

No matter how many times they replace it, the sound of splintering glass is never far behind.
 
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